Monday, November 2, 2015

At last we can talk about it

The track is ours.

I could get into trouble saying it like that because what happened at midnight on Hallowe'en is that the whole of the Outdoor Sports Complex became the responsibility of a new charitable company called YOSC Ltd. The fact that four of the directors of that company are all members of Yate & District is a coincidence and not inevitable.

How did we get here?

South Gloucestershire Council decided to stop paying the subsidy that kept the place running. Circadian Trust, who managed it, decided to stop managing it because they were losing a lot of money on the deal (even with the council subsidy). So the place would have to close and maybe the land would be good for building houses on.

So members of the club - led by Jeremy Dale - stepped in to save it. There followed fourteen months of argument, negotiation, poring over maps and deeds, visits to solicitors and general toing and froing. Yate Town Council were - and are - very keen for the complex to stay open and have been supportive and helpful throughout.

So - as of midnight on October 31st - YOSC Ltd are managers of an athletics stadium, an all-weather football/hockey pitch, three full-sized football pitches, a small football pitch, two car parks and a boxing club. And they have to make it pay.

For the foreseeable future the place will have to be run by volunteers. All the existing Circadian staff have either been made redundant or reassigned to other sites. And yesterday saw the first day of volunteering. It seemed like a hundred people there but was probably no more than three dozen.

It was plain that very little had been done to the place for the last few years. And what the gentlemen who came to "deep clean" the kitchen did last week no one could tell. Mark Lodge spent the day stripping the bar and cleaning everything, putting in freezer and cabinets that were obtained last week, washing glasses in the new/second hand glass washer and generally making the place look like somewhere you'd like to buy a drink.

Mel meanwhile kept our bodies and souls together with tea, coffee and bacon rolls - helped by Charlie and anyone else who could turn their hand to the task. Ladies scrubbed and cleaned in the kitchen - utensils and areas that seemed not to have been scrubbed since the millennium. And Jeremy worked all day at various jobs. Perhaps most immediately apparent are the banners from Renishaw - the first, hopefully, of the sponsorships that will help keep the place going. A lot of the trees and bushes round the site are very overgrown and the biggest job of the day was to start cutting them back. What man can resist a bonfire? Dave White turned up with his chainsaw and did sterling work behind the storage containers. Which is where the new purpose-built equipment store will go. No one could believe how much space there is back there - or how much litter has accumulated there over the years.

So - it's a brand new era for the club. Several times in the last year I have asked myself whether I could have undertaken this project without Jeremy. I'd like to think that if he weren't there I'd have had a go. But realistically I'd have fallen into all the traps that he has avoided and probably ended up losing the track and with it the club.

When I spoke to the volunteers towards the end of the afternoon I failed to thank him for the work he has done and the kind of future that is now possible for the club and the complex. Perhaps if I'd been less knackered from sweeping the verandah all day I'd have done the job properly. There will be other chances to put the record straight and this is the first of them.

Thanks a million, Jeremy.

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